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Historic Downtown Le Mars - Unique Fabrique building holds 130 years of history

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

(Photos contributed/photo by Magdalene Landegent) The brick building at 22 Plymouth Street S.W. has been part of Le Mars' history for nearly 130 years, serving as everything from a hardware store, as seen in the two 1900 photos, to a jewelry store to a sporting goods store to a quilting and fabric store, which it is today -- Unique Fabrique.
Editor's note: This is the eleventh in a series of stories looking at some of the historic buildings in or near downtown Le Mars. The Le Mars Historic Preservation Commission is leading an effort to list the district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Display windows in the brick building at 22 Plymouth Street S.W. tease the eye of passersby with bright squares and stitching on one-of-a-kind quilts.

In years past, though, the windows of what today is the fabric and stitching store Unique Fabrique used to be filled with other wares.

The site was home to Le Mars' post office early in the community's history.

The post office was at the site roughly from 1877 to 1881 under Le Mars' second postmaster, Alden Aldrich, who was appointed by U.S. President Rutherford Hayes.

It is likely the brick building that still stands today was constructed in the early 1880s.

By 1883, the store windows featured grocery items.

The building housed a grocery store on the main floor and offices on the second floor from about 1883 to 1893, according to historic maps.

A home for hardware

By about 1894, the window displays featured everything from seeds to rakes to grindstones.

The Sauer Bros. hardware store offered gasoline stoves that were "a boon to womankind in hot weather," according to an 1894 Le Mars Sentinel advertisement. "Ice cream on the farm and in the kitchen. You can make it yourself with a good freezer which costs only $1.75."

An 1896 advertisement announced Sauer Bros. was selling bicycles featuring "the fastest wheel on earth."

And in 1901, the store, then called Sauer & Sauer, offered stoves ranging in price from $11 to $60.

"Call at Sauer & Sauer's any day this week and get a cup of coffee and a 3-minute biscuit," the advertisement added.

There were many Sauers involved in the store through the years, including John, Julius, Magnus and Albert.

In January of 1904, Hermann Prust brought out the interest of Magnus Sauer in the hardware business, and he began operating the store with Albert Sauer, the son of Magnus and nephew of Julius.

News stories from the time refer to Prust and Sauer as the "enterprising Sixth Street hardware dealers."

One article noted they added "a thoroughly up-to-date cash register system to aid them in their large business."

Their business offered everything from stoves to field and garden seeds to new refrigerators that used "less ice than any refrigerator on the market," according to a 1905 Sentinel article.

In 1906, Mayor H. J. Linden purchased the interest of Albert Sauer in the hardware business. It was renamed Prust & Linden.

A 1907 city directory announced the shop sold everything from tinware to oil and paints to cutlery, plus sporting goods such as guns, golf clubs and baseball bats and toys like skates and boy's wagons.

Then in 1910, Prust became the sole proprietor of the hardware establishment. Linden planned to move west to be nearer to family.

Prust's sister, Emma, resigned as a bookkeeper at the Meyers Meat Market to help with bookkeeping at her brother's hardware business, then named Prust Hardware Company.

A March 19, 1912, article in the Le Mars Sentinel announced that Prust Hardware company would erect a two-story brick building at the corner of Sixth and Eagle that summer, the location of today's Sherwin-Williams at 33 Plymouth St. N.W.

Renovation at the old building began that week.

Prust made deliveries by horse, and one 1912 article announced that one of Prust's delivery horses ran away in the south part of town, demolishing the wagon.

By fall, Prust had moved the store, vacating the building at 22 Plymouth St. S.W.

He died only one year later, at 34, suffering a "stroke of apoplexy," according to a Sentinel article.

Billiards and more

After the hardware store moved, the Kehrberg-Schneider Company hosted an odds and ends sale in the old Prust building.

Then, in 1913, a five-and-dime store occupied the building at 22 Plymouth St. S.W., according to historic maps.

A newspaper advertisement from 1923 notes that the upstairs was rented as apartments.

In the early 1930s, the building became home to Zenor's Amusement Parlor.

A 1934 advertisement announced the parlor would hold seven free billiard exhibitions in connection with the national "Better Billiards" program.

The first exhibition featured Willie Hoppe, a world champion at cushion carom and 18.1 balkline billiards.

Hoppe was known as the "boy wonder" because he began playing billiards as an 8 year old in New York, when he stood on a soap box to reach the table. He won a world title at 18 years old.

He was about 47 when he appeared in Le Mars at Zenor's Amusement Parlor.

Another exhibition at Zenor's Amusement Parlor in Le Mars was offered with "Mr. Q, the Mystic of Pocket Billiards."

A grocery store again

In autumn 1935, Mack Tesler may have opened the Cashway System grocery store in the building.

In 1936 at Cashway, two-pound box of crackers sold for 15 cents and a 32-ounce container of peanut butter sold for 23 cents.

Starting in May 1941, Cashway was operated by Clarence Miller and his son George.

By August of that year, the store was known as Miller's Grocery.

Miller's Grocery was in Le Mars through 1945, although articles are unclear as to whether it moved locations.

Diamonds and gold

By November 1952, Clasen's Jewelry store moved into the building at 22 Plymouth Street, moving from a nearby building.

A 1954 Clasen's advertisement announced "shock and water resistant service watches" for sale $19.95 and up.

Earlier ads told of fine watches, diamond rings, silverware, fine china, clocks, fine gold and glitter neckwear, pen and pencil sets, billfolds, table and pocket lighters, combination cigarette cases, and more.

In 1956, Clasen's Jewelry store advertised office rooms for rent in the building's second floor with new floors, new ceilings, new walls and new east stairway with a street level entrance.

By 1960, Hotopp Jewelers moved into the building at 22 Plymouth Street, according to historic city directories.

It was there about eight years before moving to the building to the west.

A 1960 advertisement features a sale on Wyler Navion watches, completely waterproof, for $29.95.

A 1971 news story states that Hotopp Jewelers was in the store until about 1969, when the owners purchased the building just next door to the west.

For the sport of it

That July 23, 1971 article featured news of Rudy Adler buying the former Clasen Jewelry building at 22 Plymouth St. S.W. for his store, Adler Sporting Goods.

"Purchase of the building was from Mrs. Pearl Clasen, widow of the late H. F. Clasen, who for many years operated a jewelry store in Le Mars," the article said.

The building just west of the Club Café had been vacant about two years after Hotopp Jewelry moved out, the article said.

"We will have 60 percent more display area, making it possible to expand some of our sporting goods lines," Mr. Adler commented in the article.

He added that a carpenter would start remodeling the building the following week.

Prior to this, Adler Sporting Goods had been at 24 Central Ave. S.E. for a number of years in a building owned by J. J. Killeas.

Neal Adler, Rudy's son, who later became a salesperson, then a partner in the business, said he and his family remember the 22 Plymouth St. S.W. location.

"We had a gravity heat furnace, and it had a large, round metal grate in the center of the store," he recalled. "Everybody would huddle there in the winter time; the first thing people would do was stand over it to get warm."

During the years Adler Sporting Goods was in the building, the upstairs was mostly used for storage, Neal Adler said.

The sporting goods store was in the building for two decades.

By 1993, Adler Sporting Goods relocated to Central Avenue.

Candy, bath salts and quilts

Also by 1993, a business called Mouse Works, owned by Chareen Valentine, moved into 22 Plymouth Street. S.W.

The store sold everything from candy to pencils to balloons.

Then, from about 1999 to 2001, Lady Di's Bath Supplies and More set up shop in the location.

A few years later, by 2003, Unique Fabrique began selling its fabrics, patterns and quilts in the store.

The quilting and sewing store, complete with a large, colorful painted peacock perched on the building's sign, continues to serve customers at 22 Plymouth St. S.W. today.

Some of the quilt designs featured in the large store windows are modern creations.

Others are patterns passed down from generation to generation, just like the store itself.

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